Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If At First You Don't Succeed - Celebrate!

The bridge master who tried very hard to teach me to be a good bridge player often said, "If you don't go set 1/3 of the time, you aren't playing with enough ovaries." Although I never became a great bridge player (I always enjoyed the refreshments, though) I have taken that saying into many areas of my life.

I really think that the reason we don't reach our goals isn't because we fail at attempts, but because we get all weird after a failure and give up. There are all those famous stories about how many times super baseball players struck out compared to how many home runs they made. But I don't know diddly squat about baseball, so I don't have those statistics. Just know that the number of strike outs exceeds the number of home runs.

Actors just don't nail every audition they go to. No one gets every job she applies for. No one excels at every job he takes. If he does, he isn't reaching very high.

A college professor told me once that I needed to practice failing. I thought he was right off his nut, as professors tend to be. But as it turned out, he was right. My teaching contract at a community college was not renewed (I got canned). I was simply amazed. I'd been pretty good at everything I'd done for just the longest time and I couldn't figure out what was going on. I went back to my professor who congratulated me.

He said, "See? You're still alive. You are just as good a teacher as you were when you had a contract." The man was right. It wasn't so bad. I went back to school.

Recently a young friend of mine was fired from her job. She was upset and embarrassed. She had tried a job that was totally different from anything she'd ever done before. She gave it a good shot and it was not for her. I told her about the times I'd "lost" jobs. We had a good laugh and a couple of beers. She's now in a different job and enjoying life again.

I love to cook. I hate to measure. Usually my creations are quite eatable if not wonderful, but now and then they are just meant for the compost bin. It happens. I could stick to tried and true recipes that have been made over and over and over again, but that just sounds so ding dang boring. I'd rather feed the compost bin now and then than become bored with cooking.

As long as we're afraid of failing at something we are going to be less than great. Failure only hurts when your ego gets in the way. If a baseball player let a strikeout make him give up on baseball he wouldn't be a pro. A pro knows that strikeouts and losses are part of the game. I'm not a failure if I fail at something. That's a silly concept. A fail-er isn't a failure. Failing is temporary. A fail-er is someone who is in the process of winning. Failing ain't no thing. Quitting is.

When I was a little bit of a thing a horse I was riding got his head down in the homestretch and when he turned to go into the barn, the saddle and I landed on the very hard track. The wind went right out of me. My papa came over and dusted me off and asked if anything was broken beside the cinch. Then he took me and the horse to a corral, and put me back on that beast who bucked me off in a front somersault right over his head. Papa dusted me off again, this time warning me not to mention this to my mother, and put me back on that evil equine. I rode him before we went home. It was a question of me trying more times than the horse. It was painful, but a good lesson. (I suppose now it might be considered child abuse)

I've heard CEOs of huge corporations talk about the number of times they've gone bankrupt. They don't brag about it, but they aren't ashamed of it either. It's just a part of it. It's like taking pictures. The key to getting really good shots is to take lots and lots of pictures. Sure, most of them will be trash, but you'll probably get some really good shots, too. And with each bad picture, you learn something about how you might have made it better.

My dance teacher told me that grace wasn't about how many times I fell, it was about how well I got up. I still fall a lot, but now I do it while walking. I always get back up. And if I let fear of falling keep me from walking I'm going to be one stuck woman. People who know me don't think much of it and people who don't know me. . . who knows what they think. That's none of my business.

My bridge master was just full of little helpful sayings. However that's the only one I remember now is the one I hear when I feel bad about myself because I've done poorly at some task. I am not great at everything I do the first time. I am not perfect, but by golly parts of me are excellent.

And whether or not you have ovaries or play bridge, I promise you this. The less you fear failing, the more you will succeed.

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